Images copyright of APEC Architects and Philip King / Church of England Birmingham.

 

It’s absolutely amazing to see a vision come to life.

Dr Nick Harding OBE

I can’t say just how awesome it was to be here. I’ve been following the journey right from the beginning and just to see the people worshipping here and the building transformed and to see the potential and excitement is beyond brilliant! It’s been a real privilege and I found it hard to keep the tears back throughout the whole service.

The Revd Rhiannon King (Director of Mission for the Church of England – Birmingham).

Client

The Church of England, Birmingham

Location

Birmingham

Role

Project Lead, Architect, Contract Administrator, Conservation Architect

RIBA Work Stage

0-6

The world’s oldest surviving Gas Retort House was built in 1822 to produce coal gas, and light the local streetlamps and factories. The building was subsequently used for various industrial purposes until the latter half of the 20th century. The building was left to fall into disrepair but was ‘rediscovered’ in 1993 by Birmingham City Council. The derelict building was awarded Grade II* listed status, and restored in 2000 to improve viability for future development. The building sat empty for another 15 years until the Church of England purchased the site, to realise their vision for a new resourcing church as the ‘light of the city’.

 

We were approached by the Church due to our past involvement with the site, as well as our experience in heritage and ecclesiastical architecture. The brief was to maintain and enhance the main volumes for worship, whilst providing small scale ancillary spaces essential for a well-functioning church. The spaces have been kept largely unaltered. Building services, plant and toilet facilities have been installed within freestanding ‘pods’; the inserted elements clearly distinguishable from the original brickwork with contrasting birch plywood cladding. The most significant part of the building, the L-shaped Retort House, had sat in the dark for numerous years as its open arches, originally used as ventilation for its machinery, had been boarded up. Daylight now floods into the space again through the large arched glazing.

 

What has been completed so far is just the first two phases in a multi-phase redevelopment of the site. The second phase involved expanding the worship area into the next vacant section of the building complex, and restoring the beautiful timber trusses of the Coal House. The phased nature of the project means that we have been with the St Luke’s Gas St team every step of the way. It’s been great watching them settle into their new home and make it their own. The building will continue to evolve with the church’s community, and continue to bring light to previously dark places.

 

Learn more about the church at www.gasstreet.org.  You can also read about the Phase 1 launch here.